, Salem, MA

September 27, 2013

Standing room only at St. Joseph's lottery

More than 1,000 applied to live at affordable housing complex

By Bethany Bray

---- — SALEM — More than 1,000 people entered yesterday’s lottery for the 51 affordable housing units at 135 Lafayette, the housing development under construction at the former St. Joseph Church site.

Applicants packed the room during the more than four hours it took to pull all 1,031 lottery numbers, one by one, yesterday afternoon, said Lisa Alberghini, president of the Planning Office for Urban Affairs, a developer affiliated with the Archdiocese of Boston.

“That speaks to how anxious people are and what a great need (for affordable housing) there is,” Alberghini said. “... It provides lots of evidence that people think of the historic Point neighborhood in Salem as a neighborhood of choice. People want to live in and around that neighborhood. We heard that a lot from people today.”

The affordable housing complex is slated to be finished and occupied by January 2014. Applications to live in the building’s 51 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments were due earlier this month.

Salem residents and city employees will be given preference for 70 percent of the units, Alberghini said.

The 63-year-old St. Joseph Church building was demolished last winter. It had sat vacant for nine years, after the parish was closed by the archdiocese. Construction of the four-story building began soon after the church was demolished.

The Planning Office for Urban Affairs, which owns the property, has hired Peabody Properties to manage the housing application and lottery process.

In the coming weeks, Peabody Properties will sort all of the 1,031 applications and verify the information — including current address and income — on each. Units will be offered to applicants, once their application information is verified, starting with the lowest lottery numbers.

“We ask people to be patient, because this is quite a process to sort through,” Alberghini said. “This is not something that is going to be done in a week or two weeks.”

Units are set aside for applicants who make 30, 50 and 60 percent of the area’s median income. For a two-person household, a 30 percent income would be $22,650; 50 percent would be $37,800, and 60 percent would be $45,360 (based on 2012 averages).

Rents will vary based on income. Eight units are set aside as Section 8 affordable housing for tenants who make 30 percent of the median income.

In addition to the 51 housing units, the complex will have three retail spaces.

Alberghini said yesterday that construction is on track for residents to move into the complex with the new year.

Mayor Kim Driscoll, who pulled the first 10 lottery numbers, said yesterday’s crowd included the young and old, disabled and families with kids in strollers.

Alberghini and Driscoll agreed that the development will draw working people and breathe life into a once-dormant area.

“They’re folks who are working, and because of the high cost of housing, have trouble make ends meet and (paying) market-rate rents,” Driscoll said. “It’s a little bit bittersweet because there are only 51 units and there were a lot more than 51 people there (at the lottery).”

Alberghini said her office has already begun to think about possible uses for the property’s school and rectory buildings, which are the project’s second phase. They will focus fully on phase two in the new year, once people begin to move in to the housing units, she said.

Yesterday’s lottery was held in a conference room at the Beverly Cooperative Bank on Lafayette Street. For details, see

Bethany Bray can be reached at and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.